It was late 1997 when Daniel Pink wrote the landmark article Free Agent Nation for Fast Company magazine. At that time, according to Pink’s research, “if we add up the self-employed, the independent contractors, the temps — a working definition of the population of Free Agent Nation — we end up with more than 16% of the American workforce … who move from project to project and who work on their own.”
Fast-forward about twenty years and the number of freelancers working today has grown to 55 million, about 35% of U.S. workers.
Why the continued growth of freelancers? Many reasons.
According to Elaine Pofeldt, who focuses on the independent professional segment for Forbes, freelancers enjoy the more flexible lifestyle. Just as important, with the improving economy, freelancers are earning more. In a recent survey, 46% of freelancers were able to raise rates in the past year. More than half of those surveyed are earning more today than they did as conventional full-time employees.
“Perhaps reflecting their improved financial situations,” writes Pofeldt, “53% of freelancers believe that having a diverse portfolio of clients is more economically secure than having one employer.”
For companies still remembering the impact of the Great Recession, contracting with freelancers allows them to turn workers’ pay from a fixed to a flexible cost.
Just as important according to Brendon Schrader, founder of Minneapolis marketing firm Antenna, in his 2015 article for Fast Company, “the rise of independent work allows businesses to find more targeted and better qualified talent to address their needs – typically at lower costs. Rather than bringing someone in full-time, with benefits and a salary, a company can hire a consultant who’s ideally suited to a particular project. And that consultant is likely to have more resources to tackle it than at any time before.”